Born 1959, Antwerp, Belgium
Lives and works in Mexico City, Mexico
Francis Alÿs' series of small paintings collectively entitled The Prophet (begun
in 1992) partake in the venerable and specific tradition of Catholic devotional
painting. Although born in French-speaking Belgium, Alÿs has lived in Mexico for
almost 20 years, and his intimately scaled paintings are reminiscent of Mexican
retablos. A number of paintings in this ever-growing series, which numbers more
than 30 works, feature subjects that are overtly religious, such as one figure
blessing a second kneeling figure. Other motifs are more ambiguous, from the figure
who folds his hands behind his back in a pose of contemplation or submission to an
odd vignette of a woman walking with one leg stuck in a clay urn. There is an
element of parable in these works, but their iconography indicates no specific
religious doctrine. They share with their traditional counterparts an intense quiet
and almost sacred air created not only by their allusive yet nonspecific content,
but also by the dense opacity of their coolly colored surfaces. Alÿs has said these
works are "little windows" onto a more spiritual plane; one that the artist may or
may not believe exists. For him, it is the very possibility of its existence that
Alÿs, Francis, and Catherine Lampert. Francis Alÿs. Madrid: Turner, 2003.
Heiser, Jörg. "Walk on the Wild Side." Frieze, no. 69 (September 2002): 70–73.
Martin, Patricia, ed. Edén. Exhibition catalogue. Mexico City: La colección Jumex, 2004.
Medina, Cuauhtémoc. "Recent Political Forms: Radical Pursuits in Mexico/Formas políticas
recientes: búsquedas radicales en México/Santiago Sierra. Francis Alÿs. Minerva Cuevas." Trans>arts.cultures.media, no. 8 (2000): 146–63.
Parkett, no. 69 (2003): 18–59. Special section, including essays by Kitty Scott, Saul Anton, and Robert Storr.